What is filariasis: Treatment, Causes & Diagnosis
- Lymphatic filariasis is commonly known as elephantiasis. It is a tropical infectious disease that affects the human lymph system. Caused by parasitic worms, filariasis is transmitted by mosquitoes from one person to another.
- Lymphatic filariasis is more common in tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world, such as Africa, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.
- The most common lymphatic filariasis symptom is whole body swelling. Since the patient experiences severe swelling in legs and feet, arms, and genital area, this leads to pain and mobility issues.
- It is recommended to consult a general physician to get an accurate filariasis diagnosis if you experience abnormal swelling, inflammation, and pain in the body.
- If you are diagnosed with elephantiasis, the doctor will recommend a filariasis treatment plan based on the severity of your condition. The doctor will also brief you about elephantiasis prevention steps to avoid mosquito bites in the future.
Chapter 1: What is filariasis?
Lymphatic filariasis is commonly known as elephantiasis. It is a tropical infectious disease that affects the human lymph system. Caused by parasitic worms, filariasis is transmitted by mosquitoes from one person to another.
The common name (elephantiasis) is used because of the whole body swelling that accompanies the disease. Severe swelling in legs and feet, arms, breasts, and sex organs are experienced by affected individuals.
Lymphatic filariasis is more common in tropical regions of the world, such as Africa and South-east Asia. According to WHO, 893 million people in 49 countries worldwide remain threatened by lymphatic filariasis and require preventive treatment to stop the spreading.
Lymphatic filariasis symptoms:
Generally, filariasis symptoms occur 4-12 months after infection. The most common lymphatic filariasis symptom is whole body swelling. This selling tends to occur in the:
- legs and feet
- genital area
Since the patient experiences severe swelling in legs and feet, this leads to pain and mobility issues. The infected skin can also appear thick, dry, and darker than the rest of the body. Since the lymphatic system is responsible for fluid balance, around 40% of affected individuals experience kidney damage. Some individuals may also experience high fever/ chills.
It’s understandable to be alarmed if you are diagnosed with lymphatic filariasis. Early detection can help cure elephantiasis effectively.
In any case, it is vital to seek out proper medical care for lymphatic filariasis. Consulting a general physician can help you manage your filariasis signs and symptoms. In addition to this, a regular full-body health checkup once a year can provide insight into the state of your health and the areas that require improvement. You can have an instant consultation with a doctor on MFine, or you can avail of a comprehensive health check-up package or a specific condition-based health package depending on your lifestyle factors, dietary factors, age, and existing medical conditions.
Chapter 2: What causes filariasis?
Lymphatic Filariasis is caused by several round, coiled, and thread-like parasitic worms that belong to the filaria family. As previously mentioned, filariasis is transmitted by mosquitoes from person to person.
It starts with the mosquitoes containing the parasitic worm biting you. Next, the tiny larvae survive in your bloodstream and finally, matures in the lymphatic system. After maturing, it causes extensive damage to the system; therefore, causing whole body swelling.
There are eight different types of filariasis worms, out of which three causes elephantiasis:
- Wuchereria bancrofti (responsible for 90% of the overall cases)
- Brugia malayi (responsible for the remainder of the cases)
- Brugia timori (rarely contributes to elephantiasis causes)
Risk factors for lymphatic filariasis:
- While this disease can affect all ages, individuals above 40 years of age are at a higher risk of developing lymphatic filariasis.
- Living in tropical and subtropical parts of the world, such as Africa, India, South America, and Southeast Asia can increase your risk.
- Also, living in unsanitary conditions and persistent exposure to mosquitoes can increase the risk of developing elephantiasis.
Complications of lymphatic filariasis:
The most common complication of lymphatic filariasis experienced by affected individuals is physical disability. Due to severe swelling and inflammation of the body, it can be difficult to move around and complete daily tasks. Reinfection is also a common concern with filariasis.
It is imperative to understand the filariasis causes and risk factors to receive an appropriate lymphatic filariasis treatment plan. It is recommended to consult a general physician to get an accurate filariasis diagnosis if you experience abnormal swelling, inflammation, and pain in the body.
Chapter 3: How is a filariasis diagnosis done?
If you are wondering how to cure elephantiasis, it can be done by first receiving an accurate filariasis diagnosis. Once you receive your diagnosis, the doctor will recommend treatment options accordingly.
Firstly, the doctor will understand your filariasis symptoms by asking questions about your clinical history, and travel history. Next, the doctor will perform a physical examination to get an accurate filariasis diagnosis. The doctor will recommend the following diagnostic tests for filariasis to gain a better understanding of your condition.
A blood test is performed to analyze the presence of the parasitic worms in the bloodstream. Imaging tests like x-rays and ultrasound scans are performed to rule out the possibilities of other diseases. Once the filariasis diagnosis is done, a general physician will recommend a suitable lymphatic filariasis treatment plan that caters to your bodily needs.
Chapter 4: What are the different lymphatic filariasis treatments?
Filariasis treatment at home include:
- Cleaning the affected areas with antibacterial soap and lukewarm water regularly.
- Moisturizing the affected areas.
- Keeping your limbs elevated while lying down, or seated.
- Exercising the swollen limbs, whenever possible.
Filaria medicine/ elephantiasis medicine include:
- Antiparasitic drugs to kill the worms
- antibacterial/ antifungal creams for external wounds and sore spots
However, do remember to only use elephantiasis medicines as prescribed and directed by a general physician.
In severe lymphatic filariasis cases, the doctor may recommend reconstructive surgery for the infected areas, or removal of affected lymphatic tissues.
4. Emotional and psychological support
Not only is filariasis physically disabling, but it can also affect a person’s mental health due to the social stigma associated with the disease. If you are pre-occupied with worrying thoughts, consult a psychiatrist to improve your mental well-being. You can also ask your doctor about support groups and other resources that can aid your recovery.
Chapter 5: Consulting a doctor for elephantiasis/ filariasis treatment
Lymphatic filariasis can be managed and treated. The correct filariasis diagnosis is the key to receiving a suitable filariasis treatment plan. A general physician can best diagnose this parasitic disease and suggest the way forward based on the severity of your condition. If you face severe filariasis signs and symptoms, you must see a general physician right away. At MFine, we enable the patients to live a healthier life with modern medical services.
We ensure that the best filariasis treatment programs are made available to our patients for every stage of the condition. Get in touch with our team of highly-qualified doctors and healthcare professionals for any medical advice or assistance. We, at MFine, provide you with a holistic healthcare treatment program as per your bodily needs and requirements. You can also check our MFine app for a list of the best general physicians in your city with whom you can chat or video call to get answers for your medical queries!
Also, check out this detailed guide to other infectious waterborne diseases to know more.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you kill filarial worms?
Consuming microfilaricidal/ antiparasitic drugs can kill filarial worms. However, it is important to only use these medicines as directed by a general physician.
Where is filarial worm found?
Once the tiny filarial larvae enter the bloodstream through an elephantiasis mosquito bite, it survives and matures in the human lymph system. After maturing, it damages the system; therefore, causing whole body swelling.
Is filariasis painful?
Yes, since the patient experiences severe swelling in different parts of the body, it can lead to pain, inflammation, and mobility issues. Consulting a general physician can be useful in receiving a suitable filariasis treatment program based on the severity of the condition.
How can filaria be prevented?
Elephantiasis prevention can be done by incorporating the following steps to protect against elephantiasis mosquito bites:
- Getting rid of any mosquito breeding areas in your surroundings
- Using mosquito nets in your rooms
- Using insect repellents
- Wearing long-sleeved dresses and full pants when you travel to areas with a lot of mosquitoes
- Consuming antiparasitic drugs as a preventive filariasis treatment before you travel to areas with a lot of mosquitoes. However, consult a general physician to receive the correct filariasis medicine dosage.
Is filariasis completely curable?
Currently, there are no known vaccines or immediate cure for elephantiasis/ filariasis. Filariasis treatment programs target:
- Reducing the severity of filariasis symptoms
- Killing the filarial worms
- Preventing more mosquito bites
How do I book an appointment with a general physician online?
To schedule an instant appointment, download the MFine app, search for a general physician, and fill out your details. You can then get in touch with a top general physician online from the comfort of your home. You can discuss your health concerns comfortably as MFine takes your privacy very seriously. With a safe and secure platform, we ensure that the discussions between you and your doctor strictly remain confidential.